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If I choose understanding, surely you can choose patient?

I have been reflecting on what it is that makes certain events and experiences become milestones in our lives - things that seem to stay forever in our memory and that continue to have an impact on us - even if we are not aware of it at the time. My theory is that it may have to do with whether what is happening is something that touches us, something that invites us to feel our emotions.

At the beginning of 2007, I had such an experience. I attended Neale Donald Walsch's Life Education Program, a program that touched on different aspects of life in many different ways. Neale is best known for being the author of the book series "Conversations with God" and this program was held by Neale himself along with his co-facilitators in the beautiful town Ashland, Oregon, USA. We were a group of 20 people who, during the two-three weeks that we were together, experienced many opportunities to feel what it was like to stand safely in our comfort zone around a topic but also what it felt like when we were being invited to challenge ourselves a bit and take steps toward our own personal growth.

In the program we were often asked questions to reflect on and answer, and for me it was very valuable to hear everyone's thoughts and insights, but I always found it a bit awkward when it was my turn to answer and everyone's eyes were on me. I wanted so badly to be heard and seen in what I shared, but struggled with daring to be heard and seen.

One day we were invited to do an exercise. We were each given a blank name tag and a pen and asked to write a characteristic on the tag. They told us to choose a quality that we wanted to embrace more in ourselves, and it could be just about anything: funny, serious, spontaneous, generous... I sat for a little while and started to think about which quality would be best to choose, but then suddenly it came to me. I took the pen and wrote "visible".

When everyone had signed their name tags we were told to attach them to our clothes and walk around the room and talk to each other. About anything. The second part of the exercise was simply about noticing what took place within when we stated to ourselves and others the qualities we wished to invite more into our lives.

But for me this exercise was an eye opener. All of a sudden I found the courage to be more honest in my answers when someone asked me a question. I dared to look the other participants in the eye after previously having preferred to look somewhere else in the room. I dared to be seen and heard... at least in that room there and then. Of course, it was of great help that all of the other 19 participants had been given the same task and that we thereby supported each other in inviting the qualities we had written on our tags. But when I have later brought this very exercise into my life (with an imaginary name tag instead of a real one), I have noticed that it often feels different and makes a difference - in myself if nothing else - in meeting others when I give myself permission to embody and embrace different qualities in myself.

This is an exercise that you can experiment with in everyday life and perhaps it is easier to start with situations that don't feel overwhelming or too challenging. What happens within me when I write "listening" on my invisible note before visiting a friend? What happens if I write "present" before my walk in the forest or "motivated" before I go to work? Or if I write "inspired" when I'm about to go shopping or "excited" before going to the gym?

Do I notice any difference in how the conversation with another person turns out if I choose a word such as "understanding", "honest", or "patient" before we meet up? Or do I feel a difference in myself if I choose a word like "brave" or "safe"?

We all have people, relationships and situations that provoke or upset us, that challenge us to grow, and that invite us to try to see things from a new or greater perspective or use new tools. We humans influence each other, that’s just how it is, and I think it is important for us - to the extent that we are able - to honor and respect what comes up in us when we meet and talk to one another. To be as kind as we can to ourselves in what we experience, especially when our growth bring growing pains.

If in your life you wish for support and a safe room to look at what is happening in you or between you and another person you are talking to, you are most welcome to book a video session on this website. The conversation can also take place in writing via email if that way feels easier.

And you are always welcome to comment or share your own experiences below!



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